Draft UN statement condemns SKorea ship sinking but doesn’t directly blame NKorea

By Edith M. Lederer, AP
Thursday, July 8, 2010

UN draft condemns NKorea for SKorea ship sinking

UNITED NATIONS — Diplomats say the U.N. Security Council is set to approve a statement condemning a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors, but the declaration stops short of directly blaming North Korea.

The council scheduled a meeting Friday morning where diplomats said the statement will be read.

After more than a month of closed-door discussions, the United States announced Thursday that the five permanent council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — as well as South Korea and Japan had reached agreement on the text.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice introduced the draft statement to the 15-member council at a closed meeting late Thursday.

Presidential statements must be approved by the full council and diplomats said there was no opposition, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed.

While presidential statements don’t have the clout of resolutions, they do become part of the Security Council’s record.

A South Korean-led international investigation that included experts from five other nations concluded that a North Korean torpedo sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan on March 26.

South Korea sent a letter to the council on June 4 asking the U.N.’s most powerful body to respond to the sinking “in a manner appropriate to the gravity of North Korea’s military provocation.”

South Korea had wanted the council to condemn the North. But China, the North’s closest ally and a veto-wielding council member, opposed a third round of sanctions against North Korea or direct condemnation for the sinking.

The draft statement “condemns the attack” and expresses “deep concern” over the investigation’s findings that North Korea was to blame.

It calls for “appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible.”

But it doesn’t identify who is responsible, and “takes note” of North Korea’s response “that it had nothing to do with the incident,” according to the text obtained by The Associated Press.

North Korea has called for a new joint investigation by both Koreas “to verify objectively the truth of the incident” and has warned that its military forces will respond if the council questions or condemns the country over the sinking.

The draft statement “underscores the importance” of preventing further attacks or hostilities against South Korea or in the region, and stresses “the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia as a whole.”

Rice said the statement “shows the council’s unity in confronting threats to peace and security.”

“It underscores the importance of preventing further attacks and emphasizes the critical need to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the larger region,” she said.

When a reporter asked whether she believed the statement directly blames North Korea for the attack, Rice replied: “We think the statement is very clear. … It expresses the council’s judgment that the attack on the ship is to be condemned and that no further attacks against the Republic of Korea should be contemplated.”

Separately, the commander of U.S. military forces in South Korea expressed concern Friday that North Korea could engage in further provocations over the next several years.

“The thing that I worry about most is provocations from North Korea that end up then escalating very quickly,” Gen. Walter Sharp told a forum in Seoul, citing the country’s goal of achieving a “great and powerful” nation by 2012 — the centenary of the birth of North Korea’s late founder Kim Il Sung.

Among possible provocations cited by Sharp were North Korea’s development of missile and nuclear technology, its special forces and incidents such as the Cheonan sinking.

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Sin Son Ho sent a letter to the council on June 29 calling for “high-level military talks” between the two Koreas. He also reiterated the North’s call for its own inspection team to be sent to the site of the sinking near the tense Korean sea border.

South Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Park In-kook responded, saying the ship sinking violated the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and should be discussed by the U.N. Command’s Military Armistice Commission, which oversees the truce.


Associated Press writers Dan Chung and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

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